Synopsis by Clarke Fountain
Since Smoking and No Smoking, though they are separate films, were conceived (and shown) in tandem, and since they are both based on a closely connected set of plays by the English dramatist Alan Ayckbourn, they are considered together here. When the two films were shown in France, viewers invariably reported preferring the second one they saw, whichever one that was. The original plays covered eight separate stories, which have been pared down to three each for these movies. At a certain point in the story of each movie, the three female characters (all played by Sabine Azema) and the three male characters (all played by Pierre Arditi) have their lives skilfully recapped in terms of "what might have happened" if they made or failed to make certain choices. For example, No Smoking focuses chiefly on the relationship between the mild-mannered Miles Coombes and his infinitely more aggressive and ambitious wife Rowena. Reviewers were overwhelmed by the amazing fact that not only did director Alain Resnais successfully carry off this complex premise twice, but that he succeeded in creating powerful entertainments each time. In fact, the two films have begun showing up on "must-see" lists all over the place. In 1993, competing together as one film, they won most of the major awards (Césars) of the French Academy of Cinema.
choices, life-changes, life-choices, opportunity, crisis-of-conscience, morals, ambition, relationship, stories, mild-mannered